The following is the latest health policy news from the federal government for February 23-29.  Some of the language used below is taken directly from government documents.


This afternoon the House passed H.R. 7463, which changed the dates for the March 1 and March 8 funding deadlines to March 8 and March 22 and includes no new health care policies.  Health care extenders included in the current continuing resolution, including the delay to Medicaid DSH cuts, are not included in the bill that passed the House; the March 8 expiration date still applies to those extenders.

The new continuing resolution is part of a larger agreement announced yesterday by congressional leaders to keep the federal government funded beyond the coming March 1 and March 8 deadlines.  Under this agreement, Congress would take up six appropriations bills (Agriculture-FDA, Energy-Water, Military Construction-VA, Transportation-HUD, Interior-Environment, and Commerce-Justice-Science) by next Friday, March 8 and then would have until March 22 to take up the other six bills, including the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education bill.  This agreement, if adopted, would resume extension of the current delay of Medicaid DSH cuts and assure continued funding for community health centers and the National Health Services Corps beyond March 8, though the timing of that legislation is not clear.  The agreement also is expected to include relief for FY 2024 payment cuts in the Medicare physician fee schedule in one of the later bills.  Not addressed in this agreement are site-neutral Medicare outpatient payment policies or changes in policies governing pharmacy benefit managers.

Department of Health and Human Services

Private entities are eligible for funding under six of these eight programs, with awards ranging up to low seven figures.  All application deadlines are in April.  Learn more about SAMHSA’s approach from this HHS news release, which includes more information about the individual programs, links to notices of funding opportunities, information about how to apply, and individual programs’ application deadlines.

  • In the same news release that announced these funding programs HHS also reported new CMS policies to improve support for states as they address the mental health crisis.  New CMS guidance expands the pool of behavioral health providers eligible for enhanced Medicaid funding, adding marriage and family therapists, mental health counselors, and others, and provides for federal funds to support nurse advice lines as part of the continuum of supports available for Medicaid beneficiaries.  Learn more from the HHS news release and the CMS guidance to state Medicaid directors regarding the expansion of services for which federal Medicaid funding is available.
  • HHS’s Office of the Inspector has issued what it refers to as a “favorable opinion” regarding the use of a “preferred hospital” network as part of Medicare Supplemental Health Insurance (Medigap) policies in which an insurance company would contract with a preferred hospital organization to provide discounts on the otherwise-applicable Medicare inpatient deductibles for its policyholders and, in turn, would provide a premium credit of $100 off the next premium renewal for policyholders who use a network hospital for an inpatient stay.  Find the advisory opinion here.
  • HHS’s Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency and the FBI have released a joint cybersecurity advisory to share information about known indicators of compromise and tactics, techniques, and procedures associated with the ALPHV Blackcat ransomware that the agencies have identified as a threat that has targeted the health care sector.  Learn more from this overview of the advisory, which includes a link to the complete advisory.
  • HHS’s Office of the Inspector General has published a report offering lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic that can help improve care in nursing homes.  Learn more from this overview of the report and the full report itself.
  • HHS and its Administration for Community Living have announced several new initiatives and resources to address the shortage of professionals who provide the services many older adults and people with disabilities need to live in the community.  These include two technical assistance opportunities to help states strengthen their systems for recruiting, retaining, and developing direct care workers; a national hub to connect states, stakeholders, and communities to best practices and other resources related to the direct care workforce; and a webinar series for states and stakeholders focused on a range of direct care workforce topics.  Learn more from this HHS news release.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

  • CMS has posted a bulletin presenting the quarterly update of its clinical laboratory fee schedule and laboratory services reasonable charges.  Find the bulletin here.  The changes take effect on April 1.
  • CMS has posted a bulletin describing its calendar year 2024 update on appropriate use criteria for advanced diagnostic imaging.  Find the bulletin here.  The changes described in the bulletin took effect on January 1 and will be implemented as of January 3, 2025.
  • CMS has published a fact sheet on Medicare coverage of diabetes supplies.  Find it here.

HHS Newsletters

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has recommended that adults ages 65 years and older receive an additional updated 2023-2024 COVID-19 vaccine dose.  Learn more from this CDC news release.

Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC)

MedPAC has published a report summarizing the results of focus groups it conducted last year to gather beneficiary and clinical perspectives on various Medicare issues.  The major subjects the focus group explored were Medicare coverage options, access to care, telehealth, organization of care, and prescription drugs.  Find the report here.

Stakeholder Events

CMS – Hospital Open Door Forum – March 5

CMS will hold a hospital open door forum on Tuesday, March 5 at 2:00 (eastern).  Go here to register.

HHS – Office of Climate Change and Health Equity – Webinars on Taking Advantage of Provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act – March 7 (and March 21 and April 4 and 18)

HHS’s Office of Climate Change and Health Equity is holding a series of webinars to help health care providers, and especially safety-net organization, take advantage of the tax credits, grants and other supports made available by the Inflation Reduction Act, which creates opportunities for health sector organizations to invest in clean energy, building efficiency, infrastructure resilience, and more.  The next webinar will be held on Thursday, February 8, with additional events scheduled on February 22, March 7 and 21, and April 4 and 18.  Separate break-out sessions will be held for essential hospitals, community health centers, and rural providers.  Go here to learn more about the webinar series, future events, and the break-out sessions; go here for a recording of a November briefing on Inflation Reduction Act resources available to health care providers; and go here to register to participate.

HHS – Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research – Webinar on Integrating Behavioral Health in Primary Care – March 7

AHRQ will hold a webinar to share its research on the integration of behavioral health in primary care on Thursday, March 7 at 2:00 (eastern).  The webinar will feature AHRQ grantees who are researching behavioral health tools and interventions in ambulatory care settings.  Go here to learn more about the webinar and to register to participate.

MedPAC – Commissioners Meeting – March 7-8

MedPAC’s commissioners will hold their next public meeting on Thursday, March 7 and Friday, March 8.  An agenda and directions on how to participate in the meeting are not yet available but when that information is announced it will be posted here.

MACPAC – Commissioners Meeting – March 7-8

MACPAC’s commissioners will hold their next public meeting on Thursday, March 7 and Friday, March 8.  Go here to register to participate.

CMS – ICD-10 Coordination and Maintenance Committee Meeting – March 19-20

CMS’s ICD-10 Coordination and Maintenance Committee will meet virtually on Tuesday, March 19 and Wednesday, March 20 at 9:00 (eastern) on both days.  Go here for information about the procedure and diagnostic codes to be addressed during the meeting and to register to participate.

CMS – Interoperability and Prior Authorization Final Rule Education Session – March 26

CMS’s Office of Burden Reduction & Health Informatics will host a virtual education session on Tuesday, March 26 at 1:00 (eastern) on the CMS Interoperability and Prior Authorization final rule. Questions can be submitted beforehand via the registration form.  The webinar, according to CMS, will be appropriate for patients, providers, and administrative, health IT, and government affairs professionals.  Go here to register to participate and to submit questions you would like addressed during the session.

CMS – Achieving Full Annual Skilled Nursing Facility Annual Update – March 26

CMS will hold a webinar to educate providers about current changes and to help providers learn how to again a full annual update under its Skilled Nursing Facility Quality Reporting Program.  The webinar will be held on Tuesday, March 26 at 1:00 (eastern).  Go here to learn more about the webinar and to register to participate.

CMS – Health Equity Conference – May 29-30

CMS will hold its second annual CMS Health Equity Conference on Wednesday, May 29 and Thursday, May 30.  The free, hybrid conference will be held in person in Bethesda, Maryland and available online for virtual participation and involve health equity leaders from federal and local agencies, health provider organizations, academia, community-based organizations, and others. Conference participants will hear from CMS leadership on recent developments and updates to CMS programs; explore the latest health equity research; discuss promising practices and creative solutions; and collaborate on community engagement strategies.  CMS is now accepting proposals for breakout session speakers and poster presenters.  Learn more from the conference web page.